By most accounts, the Seattle Seahawks are coming off one of their best seasons.
That would be the off-season.
Free agency brought Chad Brown, Warren Moon, Willie Williams and Bennie Blades. The draft brought projected starters Shawn Springs and Walter Jones. Those two, however, remain unsigned.
Perhaps Seattle’s most important acquisition was new owner, billionaire Paul Allen, who replaced Ken Behring on the depth chart and brought (bought?) the team stability.
The flurry of moves now gives way to the considerable chore facing coach Dennis Erickson and his staff as they try to piece together the new and the old. That task begins today when the Seahawks open training camp with a 3 p.m. practice at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
On paper, Erickson likes the changes, particularly on defense, where the Hawks could have as many as six new starters.
“It’s hard to tell until we get everybody together,” the third-year coach said, “but personnel-wise, from what I’ve seen, we have a chance to be better.”
Better, he hopes, and more in tune with his defensive desires: More pressure, more man-to-man coverage, more dictating that reacting.
And best of all, Erickson said, more competition for jobs.
“For the first time our offensive front has been together, our receivers have been together, we have experience at quarterback, two running backs, so it’s a little bit different situation offensively,” he said.
“On the other side we have new faces and we have to bring them together.”
Allen parted his wallet to restock the Seahawks cupboard, presumably not with another 7-9 season in mind. The Sporting News recently listed Erickson as a coach who may have to “sweat things out.”
Antiperspirant issues aside, Erickson sounds confident.
“My expectations are high and the players’ expectations are high,” he said. “We want to get into the playoffs.”
To do so, the Seahawks need a quicker break from the starting line. Seattle has lost seven of its last eight season openers. Further, the Hawks have started 0-2 or 0-3 in six of the last eight years.
That’s where Cheney comes in.
“The No. 1 reason (camp was moved to Cheney) is to focus on football, develop some camaraderie and prepare for the early part of the season,” Erickson said. “We hope this will make a difference.”
The Seahawks apparently are holding to a hard line in negotiating with Springs and Jones. The team only has about $3.28 million left in its rookie pool. “We need them in by Friday,” Erickson said. “In my opinion, they can’t miss more than two full days. Whether that will happen or not, I don’t have any control over.”
In Jones’ absence, Erickson said Derrick Graham will play left tackle and James Atkins will be at guard. Tackle “is probably the best place for Derrick right now,” Erickson said… . The Seahawks will play five preseason games, one more than usual. Seattle plays in the Hall of Fame game against Minnesota on Saturday, July 26. The extra game gives the coaching staff another opportunity to evaluate players. “I’m going to use it as a positive,” Erickson said.
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